MVF Projects // Visitor Stories // More Visitor Stories

More Visitor Stories

This is a painting done by Paul Coze, a family friend who also happened to be

working at Mesa Verde that summer.  It shows my father with Cliff Palace in

the background.

Submitted by Susan Sleight Mowry
Although I don't have definite memories of past visits to Mesa Verde, my mother (Eleanor Sleight) wrote a letter to family and friends in July 1947 which describes the beginning of our time spent at the Park. The following is an excerpt from that letter.  I was a year and a half at the time.  My father (Frederick W. Sleight) was employed as an archaeologist ranger at Mesa Verde that summer so we left our home in Florida on June 21 for the West.
"Our last day's trip from Santa Fe to Mesa Verde was through some magnificent country.  High in elevation (high enough for aspen) northern New Mexico and southern Colorado are hard to beat for beauty.  Winding roads through forests and along rushing streams carried us to our destination, and Fred reported for duty on the evening of July 1.  We had a sumptuous dinner at the lodge, which allows a 20% discount for Park Service employees (which is nice), and then we moved into our new home.  Said home turned out not to be a tent at all but a comfortable little house with only one bad feature - a coal stove.  It is true it turned out not to be furnished, tho some furniture is built in.  Fred and I have our cots in the living room, and they help to give that "lived in" appearance, since there is no other furniture there, but there is a lovely fire place which we use every night.  Susan has the bed room, and in it are built in drawers and a dressing table.  There is a dining nook with built in table and benches, and a kitchen with an electric refrigerator which really surprised us.  We have our trusty hot plate, but as it has one burner only, our meals are simple.  I hope to learn to manipulate the coal stove in time.

Our house at Mesa Verde with me standing nearby.
Our first week has been spent in getting used to new routines.  Fred's day is from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with 2 days off a week.  We hope to spend the days off on jaunts here and there.  Navajo squaw dances are in swing during the summer months and are always fun so we hope to get to some, as we are on the edge of the reservation.  In fact many Navajos are employed here for various tasks.
The weather is a bit cool but absolutely perfect as far as I am concerned.  We sleep under 2 blankets, and it is marvelous not to be hot and sticky for a change.
I've degenerated already to the levy [Levi] stage and wear them most of the time.  In fact I'm beginning, after a week now, to feel pleasantly uncivilized again in good old southwest fashion, and it is heavenly.  Particularly uncivilized do I appear on wash days, as until a clothes line is forthcoming [laundry] is draped ceremoniously if not fastidiously over juniper and pinon.
Fred is enjoying his work and is catching up a bit on archaeological chit-chat.  Crowds poured in over the long 4th of July week end, and in one morning he took 366 people through one ruin, and that is a lot of people to talk to in a short time.  Considering there are 6 other rangers, it will indicate just how swarming it was.
A word or two about supplies before closing - a truck comes up 3 times a week and delivers what you order from the town of Mancos, which is about 30 miles away, and may be telephoned free.  This service costs $1.00 a month for us - more for families with more people, and is very helpful.  There is a store here in the Park which carries a few essentials, but the prices of course are very high.  However - an interesting comparison - eggs at the store in the Park are cheaper than I've been paying in Florida at regular  stores.  Milk is cheaper but everything else is higher.  That is - up here.  The stores in the valley should be cheaper."
My mother went on to mention that my babysitter that summer was a college student who was working at Mesa Verde.  Also memorable seemed to be the horseback trips - "...dawn and breakfast rides, moonlight and steakbake rides, day trips and pack trips."

Daddy, me, Estancia (a weaver) and Chee (a silversmith)
Mesa Verde continued to be a very special place for our family through the years and I was happy to be able to visit again last year.  Luckily my mother put together many albums and these photos are from our time at the Park in 1947.  

Our family

My mother's letter seemed to be a unique way to experience something of what it was like to live and work at Mesa Verde in 1947.  She would be amazed and pleased to see the changes and improvements today.

  Submitted by Valarie Pagni
My first visit to Mesa Verde was in 1971. I was a child of twelve. My father took me on a back pack trip. At that time I had no idea that I was about to enter a park that would alter my life forever. Standing at the bottom of the cliff house, it hit me. When I saw the finger and foot hold of the women before me I was transformed into that women, child on back, water on head and I saw the park in a different light. It was my first glimpse of the ingenious people of the area. The Cliff House was the most inspiring spot I have ever seen. I stood under the cliffs And I realized what an infinite world I was in. I suddenly felt the intense link I had with the ingenious people of this land. I have and will always hold that link so close to my soul. That was the trip I started to grow up.

I grew up high in the Rocky Mountains. I was so blessed to make many pilgrimages to the park with my father. I started bringing my daughter into the park for visits at a young age. I always feel so welcome, like I'm coming home in the park. My last trip, fall of 2013, I brought my camper and stayed in the park by myself. The fall brought the colors and smells of harvest. I was there for several days. Hiked it all, even took a bus tour. Again, as always my life was moved by such strong forces that lives there.

My name is Valarie Pagni. I take the finest white silk from China. I then paint it in watercolor techniques. The dyes are set, I cut and sew each piece one at a time. No two are ever alike. I have included a picture of a full length jacket I painted. This jacket took numerous awards across the United States in 2013.

This is how the park moves me, down to my soul. It has been and always will be a huge part of who I am.

Submited by Jan Wright
Growing up, summers were always exciting because my Dad worked in a university setting, allowing us to travel to different national parks, camping and exploring in so many wondrous places. On my very first visit to Mesa Verde National Park way back in the summer of 1957, I was mesmerized by the dioramas in Chapin Mesa Museum with their teeny people, animals, and dwellings. I could have stood there for hours, forehead against the glass, imagining me in those scenes. 

After that memorable trip, miniature dolls became my favorites, and I would create every detail in my own little doll house. Most important was creating my own diorama of the Tonkawa Indians of central Texas for a fourth grade project. Toothpicks became sturdy poles holding up paper deer skin roofs; cut twigs became trees; and small clay figures ground corn, hunted, scraped hides, and cooked over a fire pit with red paper flames. A+ was my reward.

Oh, how that one trip had influenced me, but not only as a child! In 2008, having lived in Texas, Utah, and New Mexico, I was drawn to Mesa Verde country. From my earthen roof home I could enjoy the ever changing light on the Mesa Verde Range. I felt I had finally come home! I immersed myself into my painting and showed at Artisans of Mancos. I was privileged to exhibit my watercolors for six years at Mesa Verde's Far View Lodge. In 2012, I was honored to have been chosen as an Artist in Residence at the park, a life changing event upping my game as an artist.

With each painting of Mesa Verde dwellings, artifacts, and petroglyphs, I am creating a "miniature" of the magnificent remains of the Ancestral Puebloan people. Did that one childhood experience lead me to becoming an artist, especially at Mesa Verde?

Submitted by Charmay Allred

My first visit to Mesa Verde was in 1946 when I was nine years old.  My mother wanted us to visit as many national parks as possible that summer, so we were on quite road trip. We parked near Cliff Palace in time to take a guided tour, but for some reason neither my parents nor my brother would get out of the car.  I was restless and impatient, so I climbed up before the ranger appeared and walked around the site.  Everything looked strangely familiar to me, so when the ranger led the tour, I was amazed at how much I had identified correctly.  After the tour, when I went back to the car, I said “We must have visited here before because I knew where everything was and what it was called before the tour.” My mother’s response was, “No, we never have been here—or anywhere else near here—at all.”

Decades go by and we are living next door to my husband’s sister and her family.  Her oldest son, who was a freshman in college, had just been diagnosed with a very serious disease that had him terrified and distracted.  As we were driving on errands one day we heard on the radio something about a psychic consultant who was especially good at counseling young people going through dreadful experiences, so she suggested we make an appointment for her son.  She did.  All of us were impressed with his knowledge and competence, so she suggested that we should make appointments with him, too.

We did make an appointment with the psychic.  All he asked for was our first name.  When I was called into his office, he sat there in silence for several minutes, just shaking his head a bit.  Finally he said, “I can’t read you.  I’m stuck at the Museum of Natural History in New York.”  At that time I had not visited that museum, so I sat in surprised silence.  Finally, after several more minutes he said, “‘I get it.  In an earlier life you lived on a mountain.”  His gesture that accompanied his comment was a straight vertical. After a few seconds of connecting all of this, I told him about my Mesa Verde experience and he nodded his head and said, “Yes.”

As an adult, especially when I served on the board of directors of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, situated near the park, I have returned to Mesa Verde many times and always had powerful experiences.

Post Script:
Not only did my sister-in-law’s son survive his illness, but also became a physician, met his wife in medical school, and now both practice in New Jersey.